One of the best ways to get the most out of your holiday is to learn a little bit about the local cultures, politics, religion and customs of the places you're visiting. It's a small gesture but it goes a long way: you'll build a stronger relationship with the people you meet on your travels if they can see that you've made an effort to learn about their country and to show respect for local traditions.
Support local markets
From Chichicastenango in Guatemala to San Telmo in Buenos Aires, Latin America is home to some superb street markets and you'll know doubt explore one or two while you're away. Shopping at artisan markets is an excellent way of supporting local craftspeople and injecting money directly into local communities; however it's important to be aware of the black market trade and to avoid purchasing anything made from endangered plants or animals. By staying away from products like hardwoods, shells, exotic feathers, furs or eggs, you will be helping to prevent their extinction.
Eat and drink like a local
We make a point of seeking out small, authentic local restaurants, bars and cafés for you to experience when travelling on our group tours and, over the years, we've collated recommendations from staff, tour leaders and clients so our portfolio is always growing. We're more than happy to pass these on to you before you travel so that you have the chance to directly support local business owners by eating and drinking at their establishments.
Give gifts responsibly
Many of you will want to give gifts to children during your visit to Latin America. Fruit, crayons and balloons, colouring books and footballs can elicit delight and add extra satisfaction to youradventure. However, you have to bear in mind that if you give to one child and not the other, problems resulting from envy might ensure: you might choose to make donations to local schools or conservation and charitable organisations rather than giving money directly to children begging on the streets. Ask us, your guides, for specific advice.
Think before you click
When you intent to take pictures of people and events, in particular of religious processions, you should ask permission first. It's tempting to quickly press the button thinking no-one will notice or mind, but you might unintentionally be offending a particular cultural belief. By asking beforehand, you will be showing sensitivity and it might even result in a better photograph. You could also take the addresses of the people you photograph - many of them may not have any photographs of their families, so sending them a copy is a nice way of paying for the photo you get to keep.
Learn the lingo
Learning a little bit of the local language is priceless. if you can learn enough to have a conversation with someone then your experience of Latin America will be deeply enriched, but even the basic 'hola', 'gracias' or 'obrigado' is usually well received and you'll be rewarded with warm appreciation and a friendly smile!
Stick to paths and walkways on treks in the jungle, on a mountain, or at archaeological sites. This helps preserve wildlife and avoids erosion of the landscape, as well as being advantageous to your own safety - if a guide asks you to stay close to them then it's probably for a very good reason!
Waste not want not
There are plenty of small ways to contribute to the environment whilst you're on holiday and they don't take much effort! You can save water by taking showers instead of baths in areas with problematic water supplies or by using a refillable water bottle (see these Water To Go filtration bottles) - and if you don't want your towels and sheets to be laundered every day then you can advise your hotel. It's tempting to leave the air-conditioning or heating on in your hotel room while you're out during the day, but if you can avoid this at all then it's significant action that will reduce your energy use.
If you have any feedback about your holiday with Journey Latin America, or with any other operator about aspects relating to sustainable travel please let us know. If we're doing something right we can do more of it, or where we or our suppliers are falling short we can make changes to improve.